Precision cancer medicine — diagnosis and treatment based on the genetic abnormalities of a specific tumor — is playing an ever-larger role in cancer care. The field got a boost earlier this year when President Barack Obama proposed a $215 million federal Precision Medicine Initiative with cancer as one of its priorities.
Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), a leader in the field, has a new website (www.precisioncancermedicine.org) to connect patients and physicians with information about precision cancer medicine, including rich resources on what it is, how it can be applied to cancer care today, and specific clinical trials to address particular genetic mutations.
“Precision medicine means aligning treatments with specific abnormalities we see in a patient’s cancer,” explained Barrett Rollins, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber’s chief scientific officer. He notes that most cancers arise from alterations in genes that normally control cell growth and division. The mapping of the human genome advanced the understanding of the genetic alterations associated with different cancers.
“Precision cancer medicine aims to fully characterize the changes present in the cancers, so that treatment is targeted against the molecular changes in each cancer, and at the same time less toxic to normal cells,” said Neal Lindeman, MD, director of the Center for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where DNA samples from patients’ tumors are analyzed to detect cancer-related mutations.
The new website includes various sections that are easy to navigate and explore. “The Latest Thinking” highlights news about the field, including recent scientific findings and helpful features such as, “Five things you should know about precision medicine.”
Three patients describe their own experiences, and outline how precision treatment methods improved their outcomes.
Another section highlights Profile, one of the nation’s most comprehensive precision cancer medicine research initiatives. Genetic data is collected from DNA scans of tumor samples and compiled in databases for research on cancers and how they respond to therapies. All cancer patients at DF/BWCC and Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center may consent to have this analysis of their tumor DNA.
Since August 2011, more than 11,000 genetic tumor profiles have been generated. In some cases, the information can help physicians make exact diagnoses, predict the cancer’s behavior, or select the cancer therapies that are most likely to be effective.
“Find Clinical Trials” helps prospective patients and physicians to develop a list of clinical trials that match their diagnosis, and then to narrow the search results by adding the specific genes and mutations found in their cancers. Web site users may then request an appointment with an oncologist online or by phone.